Iberia & Canary Islands

Ports in Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar, along with the Canaries and Madeira, make up the itineraries for these cruises visiting historic Iberian cities and the natural wonders of the Atlantic islands.

Sand dunes on the beach Famara, Lanzarote

The ports dotted around the coastline of the great western European peninsula of Iberia – consisting of Spain, Portugal, landlocked Andorra, and Gibraltar - are popular choices with cruise companies, and itineraries generally also include Canary Islands ports and often Madeira too.

From Moorish to medieval, there are destinations offering a diverse mix of architectural styles and cultural heritage, with the added advantage of warm climates all year round. Depending on the precise itinerary, shore excursions will include visits to an assortment of fascinating Iberian cities and natural wonders like Europe’s largest mountain, Mount Teide, in Tenerife, or the lunar-style landscape of Lanzarote’s Timanfaya National Park.

  • Madeira, Portugal

    This exotic, green island is famed for its year-round pleasant climate and the diversity of its flora, with tropical plant species growing wild in the countryside like some vast Eden, banana plantations, and the biggest concentration of rare Laurissilva forest in the world. The picturesque capital of Madeira, Funchal, is protected by a semi-circle of lush, green mountains, the perfect backdrop to show off the city as you approach the cruise terminal from the sea. You can easily walk along the seafront, then inland to the Old Town, where you can wander happily in the numerous narrow streets and enjoy refreshment in one of the many restaurants. A must-see in Funchal is the Mercado dos Lavradores (Farmer’s Market), best visited in the morning, where local producers bring their fruit, vegetables and flowers, and fishermen sell off the day’s catch in the fish market. Shore excursions from Funchal may include trips up to Monte on the Funchal-Monte cable car, where you will find Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, and a popular way back down is by basket sledge, a hair-raising ride where carreiros, the Madeiran equivalent of gondoliers, steer you down the steep, narrow streets towards the capital. Alternatives may include coach tours of the island, perhaps including a walk along one of Madeira’s famous ‘levadas’, small canals hugging the hillsides which channel water from the rainier north to the hotter, drier south of the island.

    Camara de Lobos
  • Lisbon, Portugal

    Any amateur geographer will tell you that Lisbon’s not on the coast, but fortunately the mighty River Tagus is so broad and deep as it passes the city that it can accommodate modern cruise liners, allowing access for hundreds of ships every year. It’s a lively, captivating capital with a character shaped by a procession of different rulers over the centuries and by a cultural melting pot of nations who have settled in the city from Portuguese colonies all over the world. There’s a whole host of interesting things to see within 20-30 minutes’ walk of your ship, including the unique 19th-century Santa Justa lift which transports passengers from the lower streets to the higher ones, the 12th-century cathedral and São Jorge Castle, where the panoramic view encompasses the old city and the impressive suspension bridge spanning the river. The old Moorish Alfama district (near the cruise terminal) where haunting Fado music - described as ‘the musical expression of the Portuguese people’- can be heard, is also worth a look. Other famous sights are the medieval Belém Tower, and a statue of the Christos, on which the more famous statue in Rio de Janeiro was based; you’ll see these as the ship sails up the Tagus to the cruise terminal. Shore excursions may include tours of the city or days out further afield, for example to the elaborate, flamboyant 19th-century town of Sintra, or the catholic shrine of Fátima.

  • La Palma

  • Tenerife

    This is the largest of the Canary Islands, and the approach is dominated by majestic Mt. Teide, a dormant volcano in the centre of the island surrounded by a stark lava landscape. Elsewhere, though, much of Tenerife, particularly in the north, is pleasantly green with lush mountain valleys, banana plantations, vineyards and pine woods. It has the advantage of year-round sunshine, of course, and lots of beaches with volcanic sands varying in colour from yellow to black, mostly on the hotter, drier south side of the island. Cruise ships dock in the capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, on the north-east coast, the terminal being just 10 minutes’ walk from the town centre, the Plaza de Espana. The town has a variety of tempting shops, bars and restaurants, a selection of museums, and tropical gardens showcasing exotic plant species in Garcia Sanabria park. If you fancy a day on the beach, the nearest is the Playa de las Teresitas, a few kilometres from Santa Cruz and easily reached by bus from the Plaza de Espana. Organised shore excursions may include trips to see Mt. Teide and the surrounding Las Canadas National Park, the Pyramids of Guimar, the Siam Waterpark, or a beach-based day in a major resort like Playa de las Americas.

    Beach Las Teresitas in Santa cruz de Tenerife
  • Gran Canaria

    Gran Canaria is the second most-populated of the Canary Islands and lies in the Atlantic Ocean about 150 km off the north-west coast of Africa. Cruises arriving in Gran Canaria dock in Las Palmas, the capital, established by the Spanish in the late fifteenth century and named after its early incarnation in a lush palm grove. You have a couple of choices on arrival; either stay within walking distance of the port where you will find plenty to keep you occupied, or jump in a taxi or local bus to see further afield. Close to the port is the Parque Santa Catalina with cafés, restaurants and shops, and a science and technology museum which is especially good for children, and just outside the port gates is a shopping centre and department store. If you fancy a relaxing day on the beach, Playa de Las Canteras is 15 minutes’ walk away. You’ll need transport to visit Las Palmas’ main shopping area and sights, which are a little further afield in the Triana and Vegueta areas in the old town, and include the cathedral and the Canarian Museum. Organised shore excursions feature lots of opportunities for watersports and visits to the vast sand dunes of Maspalomas and nearby Playa del Ingles in the south of the island, plus tours of the mountainous, volcanic interior and quieter parts of the island with banana plantations and coffee farms.

    Las Plamas de Gran Canaria
  • Lanzarote

    With virtually guaranteed year-round sunshine, Lanzarote is the most easterly of the Canary Islands. The whole of the Canary Islands archipelago arose out of volcanic activity, but Lanzarote was further shaped during powerful eruptions in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the island’s distinctive natural landscape is dominated by hundreds of extinct volcanoes and moon-like lava fields dotted with craters, cones and unstructured lava formations, best seen from the slopes of Fire Mountain in the Timanfaya National Park. Cruise ships dock in Arrecife, about 3 km away from the town proper, so you will need to use the shuttle bus or take a taxi to the centre which is particularly well-known for its fabulous shopping and its golden, sandy beach, the Playa del Reducto. Historically plagued by pirate attacks, Arrecife was protected by two defensive castles; the Castillo San Gabriel, now home to a museum telling Arrecife’s history, and Castillo San Jose, which houses the Museum of International & Contemporary Art, brainchild of Lanzarote-born 20th-century artist and architect César Manrique, whose artworks and architectural sculptures can be found all over the island. Shore excursions are dominated by tours of the island exploring the distinctive volcanic landscape, or drop-offs at one of Lanzarote’s beaches, such as at the nearest beach resort, Puerto del Carmen.

    Cactus garden in Guatiza village
  • The Azores

    manta rays in Azores islands
  • Tangiers, Morocco

    Architecture of Chefchaouen
  • Casablanca, Morocco

    Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca
  • Tunis, Tunisa

    Traditional glass and metal lamps in shop in the medina of Tunis
  • Gibralar

    Rock of Gibralar
  • Vigo, Spain

    This little-known city is located on Spain’s Atlantic coastline in the lush, green autonomous community of Galicia. It’s famed for its seafood, particularly octopus, which abounds here, but also baby squid, oysters, and simply cooked fish like grilled sardines and small fried fish called chinchos. There’s an interesting old town with narrow, hilly streets named after the wares sold there –Calle de las Ostras (oysters), Rúa Sombrereiros (hats) and Rúa Cesteiros (baskets), for example – and don’t miss the best view of the city and harbour from the fort (Castillo del Castro), reached via a choice of walking trails through the park which surrounds it. Shore excursions may include walking tours of the city or days out further afield; for example, to the Cíes Island Nature Reserve (think Caribbean-style white sands and blue, blue sea) or the region’s capital, Santiago di Compostela, a Catholic shrine since the 9th century, and UNESCO-protected since 1985.

    Islas cies beach
  • Bilbao, Spain

    bilbao marketplace
  • La Coruna, Spain

    Manons beach

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